IT’S hard to believe that the last time athletes in the globally popular sport of lacrosse stood on an Olympic medal podium was 1908. Though there were a few Olympic exhibition matches as late as 1948, the sport has not been officially recognized by the ultimate global sports event for more than a hundred years.
What will it take for a lacrosse player to once again raise a stick high in the air and score a goal on the preeminent international stage for excellence, the Olympic Games? As the sport continues to pick up new fans playing in new nations, the answer might just be a little patience.
Australia’s Olympians took home 35 medals in the 2012 London games, but should they start training in lacrosse for 2016? This might be a good time to stock up on all things warrior lacrosse from Lacrosse Monkey, but it still may be 8 years or more until those jerseys will bear the Olympic rings.
How does a new sport get chosen to be officially sanctioned and eligible for medals in the Olympics? Unfortunately it’s not as simple as a quick online poll. The International Olympic Committee consults with international sports federations to determine if a new sport is eligible. There are a variety of factors that go into the decision, including the popularity of the sport, whether it adheres to widely agreed upon standards, and most importantly, if participation is available to all of the nations which compete in the Olympics. The process is anything but quick and can take decades once a petition is filed. But the system does work. Recent new sports added include squash, karate, and even golf. Surely then there’s room for the legendary stick ball game that has been in style for countless centuries, lacrosse.
With an emphasis on team skill and athletic excellence, lacrosse is perfectly poised to represent nations on the world stage, and embody the brotherhood that the Olympics strive for.
Lacrosse is truly an international sport. In fact, it’s one of the earliest known team sports to cross nations and oceans to be played around the world. A thousand years ago, native North American cultures played an early form of lacrosse as both an important ceremonial ritual as well as a way to have fun. This was a game that drew upon the deepest spiritual beliefs of its players, and imparted pride and status within tribes. In the 1600s, Jesuit missionaries transported a form of the sport to Europe, where it developed at the same time as traditions in the new nations of the Americas.
Today, lacrosse in played all over the world, by children, top athletes, and casual sports fans from every walk of life. Though local rules may vary, the essence of the game is the same. Traditionally, the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. have been the top destinations for international play, but in recent years, nations across Europe and Asia have caught lacrosse fever. International competitions like the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship and the Eastern Lacrosse Championships have brought together teams from many different cultures and united them in friendly competition. This is, in essence, the heart of what the Olympics are all about, and it will only be a matter of time until lacrosse re-takes its place on that globally-renowned platform.
Lacrosse recently scored a powerful victory on its journey to the Olympics when the Federation for International Lacrosse was inducted into SportAccord, the coalition for sports federations that is a necessary stepping stone to Olympic recognition. The Federation for International Lacrosse now has 45 member nations.
Despite this encouraging development, you probably won’t be seeing too many Warrior lacrosse jerseys on the medal stand any time soon. The Federation for International Lacrosse predicts it may be more than a decade before the Olympic lacrosse dream finally becomes a reality. That means many of lacrosse’s future Olympic stars are still just children now. So, add one more amazing — and achievable – aspiration for every child who loves the game.